Quebec judge says Crown failed to prove Nazism led to Holocaust in hate speech trial

Gabriel Sohier Chaput walks the halls of the courthouse in Montreal on Monday, Feb. 28, 2022. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

The prosecution in the trial of a Montreal man accused of fomenting hatred against Jews failed to establish that the murder of Jews by the regime of Adolf Hitler was a consequence of Nazi ideology, a Quebec court judge said Friday.

The case involves Gabriel Sohier Chaput, 35, who faces one count of wilfully promoting hatred in connection with an article he has admitted to writing that was published in 2017 on the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer. The blog post included racist images and comments about Jews throughout, and the website displayed photos of Hitler and other images associated with Nazism.

Prosecutor Patrick Lafrenière said it was common knowledge that the Daily Stormer is a far-right website and that Nazi ideology led directly to the murder of millions of Jews.

But Judge Manlio Del Negro wasn’t satisfied. “You (Mr.) Lafrenière, did not present an expert opinion,” the judge said.

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“The Crown is asking a lot,” Del Negro said. “You are making arguments that have not been put into evidence (…) I am not convinced that doing what you are asking me to do does not prejudice the accused.”

Sohier Chaput’s defence lawyer, Helene Poussard, jumped into the discussion, telling the judge that, “today, Nazism is used to describe everything. We mix the Holocaust with Nazism.”

Poussard added that, “it’s not because Jews were exterminated that it was part of the ideology.” She then suggested that Jews were killed in Nazi concentration camps “to save money.”

The judge rebuked her: “You have crossed the line!” he said.

Then the judge turned to Lafreniere. “You see, (Mr.) Lafreniere, it’s your fault. It would have been easy to prove that the Daily Stormer was a far-right site. It would have been easy to bring a historian to prove that Nazism was behind the extermination of the Jews.”

The two sides agreed to return to court on Aug. 29 to fix a date for a debate as to whether it is common knowledge that the Daily Stormer is a far-right website and that Nazism did indeed lead to the Holocaust.

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Earlier on Friday, Lafrenière delivered his closing arguments, attempting to demonstrate that the text written by Sohier Chaput and the context in which it was published were hateful. The article said 2017 would be the year of “non-stop Nazism, everywhere.”

“You have to take the context into account,” Lafrenière said. “Nazism is the largest manifestation of hate toward the Jews.”

The article’s degrading comments, its aggressive tone and its description of Jews as “our enemies,” the lawyer said, “are likely to promote hatred” against the Jewish community.

Poussard delivered her closing arguments in March, stating that her client was being ironic and was trying to make his readers laugh.

Sohier Chaput, meanwhile, testified during the trial that the Daily Stormer was a “parody site.”

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Lafrenière said Friday that the site is by all appearances a serious website and not intended to be a joke.

Sohier Chaput, who wrote under the pen name Zeiger, published around 1,000 articles on The Daily Stormer, making him one of the site’s most prolific contributors.

Lafrenière said the accused wrote the entirety of the article and that certain derogatory terms used toward Jewish people were not added by an editor, as Sohier Chaput has claimed.

About 40 demonstrators identifying with the anti-fascist movement were in front of the Montreal courthouse to express their lack of confidence in the judicial system “to combat the influence of the far-right and the fascist threat.”

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